Tennessee lawmakers call for an end to violent crime

Democratic leaders say that includes fighting crime at the root cause
WSMV Vincent Dixie
WSMV Vincent Dixie
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 7:11 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Tennessee lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are calling for an end to violent crimes.

On Thursday, Rep. Vincent Dixie, the House Democratic Caucus Chair, spoke on efforts state legislators could take to fight crime.

“The tragedy that’s happened to the Fletcher family in Memphis on September 2 was horrifying. The victims of the Facebook Live shootings are undeserving of their fate in the hands of random violence. When these events happen once, the once is just too often,” Dixie, D-Nashville, said at a news conference on Thursday. “Every time a tragedy like this occurs, the Republican leadership fails to address the root cause of the violence and pass reactive laws that increase punishment. We have the tools to be proactive and attack the problems.”

On Wednesday, Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty called for an end to violent crimes and asked for action from the White House.

“This defund the police, disrespect the police, be compassionate to criminals has not served this nation well,” Blackburn, a Republican, said. “As I talk to Tennesseans, they want to fully fund the police and make certain that criminals are locked up and not able to commit these violent crimes.”

Lawmakers on both sides mentioned the murder of Memphis jogger Eliza Fletcher, whose suspected killer police said is a repeat offender.

WSMV asked Dixie what state leaders plan to do to help address repeat offenders.

“I think there is already a mechanism for judges to use to enhance their sentencing based on their prior sentences, and we have to do a better job of tracking people and when they are on probation, make sure they are doing their analysis,” Dixie said. Marking sure they are showing up for appointments and check-ins and if they’re not, we have to immediately go in and catch them and bring them in.”

Dixie said steps they’re planning to take to keep neighborhoods safe should tackle crimes at the root cause.

“No one should have to fear for their safety in their own neighborhood. People are tired of saying our thoughts and prayers are with you. People are tired of hearing it,” Dixie said. “We’re tired of wearing T-shirts, we’re tired of midnight vigils. We need actions.”

Some of that action, Dixie said, includes helping the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation do its job efficiently.

“The very day after the upcoming election, we will be filing a bill to fully fund the TBI. Our policies will protect women and families,” Dixie said. “Hopefully we can sit down with leadership for TBI, figure out what they need and what it is going to take to get everything operational and the positions they have to have to help those response times and percentages come down.”

Data TBI provided to WSMV showed in its Forensic Biology Unit in Nashville has 136 requests pending for violent crimes in August 2022. The average turnaround for those requests is about 21 weeks.

“Just this last session, TBI requested funding for 40 forensic scientists, eight lab techs and two administrative assistants. They received exactly half of what they asked for,” Dixie said.

With recent crimes involving repeat offenders, WSMV4 asked Dixie his thoughts on addressing those types of crimes.

“The key is we have to have the DAs in those particular areas, they have to do their jobs,” Dixie said. “The only people that can make sure they do their jobs are the people that voted for them. Sheriff’s offices are overworked serving warrants. Police officers are overworked and understaffed and doing their jobs. So, who is going to do this? Maybe we can address that through some staffing and employment issues.”

The Democratic lawmaker said fighting crime comes down to lawmakers being proactive instead of reactive, attacking the issue at its roots.

“Our policies are better because we attack the problem at the roots: poverty. We understand that if you can help solve the ills of poverty, people aren’t out stealing, killing, robbing because they have to go to work. They have a good job to go to tomorrow,” Dixie said. “There are programs that can be funded for after school programs. More resources can be directed to education that will help go back into those communities and keep those kids off the streets and keep guns out of their hands.”

Stolen guns from vehicles have been a major concern for police in Nashville. This week alone Metro Police said 23 guns were stolen from cars.

Dixie said making sure people register their guns will help law enforcement know who has guns so it can be traced.

“Nobody is trying to take your guns. We just want people to be responsible with gun ownership,” Dixie said. “When you get a gun, you treat it as if its’ the most precious thing and that it can take a life and you’re responsible for that gun and every bullet that comes out of it.

“There’s some commonsense legislation we can work with, Moms Demand Action. There’s a lot of organizations that have really good legislation and is the other side ready to hear it and can we meet in the middle?”